On International Fact-Checking day, Meedan’s program team members share insights and reflections on our work with partners addressing misinformation in Latin America, North Africa Western Asia and in the Asia Pacific region.

Isabella Barroso, Program Manager, Latin America

It is always impressive and humbling to see journalists work diligently through the massive amount of fake and misleading content they monitor and the multitude of contexts and issues they cover. Having worked with newsrooms in Latin America that are small and big in size, address multiple contexts and issues, here are a few reflections that I would like to share:

  1. Diversify independent funding streams: Even though digital platforms offer a space to new voices in Latin America´s media, they also amplify distrust in journalism and spread misinformation. To respond to this issue in a sustainable fashion there is a need for new models that can independently fund this work. An example in development is the bill PL2630 being proposed in Brazil to regulate Big Tech to pay news agencies for making content available on their pages.
  2. Leading social conversations and responding to current events: there is a clear need for fact-checking groups to sustain the quality of their work and the health of team members. Fact-checkers also need to respond to current events, especially those that generate massive storms of misinformation. An example of groups responding to current events is the work of Animal Politico in Mexico. They have dedicated their work to electoral coverage, as well as gender and climate related misinformation, both by responding to and driving societal interest.
  3. Implement paid time off, psychological aid, and shorter work shifts: fact-checkers by the nature of their work are more exposed to harmful and potentially dangerous content online, therefore, newsrooms need to develop policies that address mental health, as well as design better internal protocols and offer support that goes beyond training.
  4. Improve security protocols and support: given the polarization of our times, fact-checkers are susceptible to public scrutiny over the frequency in which different political parties are being fact-checked over others. In Latin America this has a history of becoming life threatening. So there is a need to update current security protocols in newsrooms and improve journalists’ skills on issues of digital security.

Haramoun Hamieh, Program Manager, North Africa Western Asia

In 2020 and 2021, the world witnessed an unprecedented online infodemic directly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The infodemic caused multiple waves of misleading information that further contributed to the spread of the disease and a sense of panic among communities, especially in countries suffering from weak media ecosystems and severe political and economic turmoil.

To tackle this problem, the NAWA Newsroom and Investigative Fund teamed up with researchers and journalism students to launch an initiative that specialized in monitoring COVID-related misinformation and disinformation in the region. The Media Credibility Index was born. Developed in collaboration with 5 NAWA newsroom students after receiving specialized training, the Media Credibility Index aims to assess the credibility of news websites in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. NAWA newsroom students monitored 626 news websites, focusing on analyzing the content of the most viewed websites through an open source investigation, while taking into account algorithmic bias and business models. An interactive map was published along with a major report on the state of media and misinformation during the pandemic in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

In 2022, the team expects to expand the credibility index, covering more countries in the region and evaluating the credibility of more media organizations.

Sneha Alexander, Program Associate, Asia Pacific region Shalini Joshi, Program Director, Network and Training

Our Check Global partner Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC) is committed to producing high-quality fact-checks in the fight against misinformation, as well as to spreading media literacy since its launch in 2018.

Some reflections from our work with TFC:

  1. Media literacy skills are essential for vulnerable communities: Extending these skills to older people and youth can help them access credible information and enhance their critical skills. In the context of Taiwan, TFC’s role in providing media literacy skills is an effort to strengthen democracy in the country by making senior citizens and young people aware of the threats of disinformation and making them more active as citizens.
  2. Using technology can help in scaling initiatives designed to address misinformation: Tech and tools can support the work of fact-checkers by increasing the speed of response, the reach of fact-checks and potentially, the impact as well. TFC has embraced new technology and been able to respond in real time to claims making the process of fact-checking more efficient.
  3. Cross-country collaborations can improve access to verified information. Misinformation travels across regions, languages and time. Collaborative processes to combat the spread of misleading claims can help fact-checkers address the massive scale of the problem. TFC’s partnership with VERA Files, an independent fact-checking group in the Philippines is a great example of fact-checkers working together to provide communities better access to verified information.
  4. A multi-pronged strategy is useful to address the issue of mis/disinformation: TFC’s work shows that the fight against mis/disinformation is not just through fact-checking and verification only, but it can be strengthened by empowering communities through media literacy, making fact-checking faster and efficient by embracing technology and improving access and reach by engaging in collaborations.

Read our blogpost sharing insights and a message from Summer Chen, Editor in Chief at Taiwan FactCheck Center, on International fact-checking day.

Megan Marrelli, Senior Program Manager

Meedan’s Digital Health Lab works with partners around the world on supporting safer and more responsible engagement with information online. Our training, policy support, and information product Health Desk are in service of large international newsrooms, local community radio stations, and innovative communicators of critical health information. For international fact-checking day we’re highlighting the work of our partner Tayo Help Desk.

Tayo is a virtual help desk on COVID-19 for the Filipino community, driven by the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO). The organization focuses on generating culturally tailored content to proactively combat misinformation through storytelling, visuals and videos.

Some examples:

  • Vaccine Webinar: https://youtu.be/BhiLNC5tAFg
  • Viral Dance Video: https://youtu.be/F4ChktV6QWs
  • PSA – We Can Do This Safely (English) https://youtu.be/6y_spTE99XQ
  • PSA – Kaya natin’to (Tagalog) https://youtu.be/9lSNplTNvAE

Tayo is about to launch a call center geared towards Filipino seniors this spring, an initiative that launched after discovering a need to serve readers who would prefer to speak to someone for their COVID-19 questions.

We’re so excited to continue partnering with this organization on health and science communications.

  1. Online conversations are heavily influenced by news coverage, like the 2022 Supreme Court decision on abortion. The relationship is less clear between big breaking news and specific increases in online misinformation.
  2. The tweets analyzed were a random sample qualitatively coded as “misinformation” or “not misinformation” by two qualitative coders trained in public health and internet studies.
  3. This method used Twitter’s historical search API
  4. The peak was a significant outlier compared to days before it using Grubbs' test for outliers for Chemical Abortion (p<0.2 for the decision; p<0.003 for the leak) and Herbal Abortion (p<0.001 for the decision and leak).
  5. All our searches were case insensitive and could match substrings; so, “revers” matches “reverse”, “reversal”, etc.
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Published on
April 2, 2022
September 15, 2023